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Now Streaming: The Hidden Gems of Netflix Part 2

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People are forever going on about the best TV shows to binge on using Netflix's extensive TV library. It is true, there is some great stuff on there, but television wise Netflix UK is but a shadow of its American sister.

In terms of cinema, however, there are some really golden gems to be found. A major problem with this new frontier of home entertainment - one that will allegedly sweep the box sets from our houses and the discs off the shelves of stores the world over - is that individual titles rarely get championed or even "released" in the tradiitonal sense.

When a new title is added there is usually no fuss or excitement and they are often just lost within a new batch of 'content' thrown onto the website unless Netflix chooses to highlight the addition in its header of suggestions (and when their weird selections feature stuff like Hostel: Part II and The Big Wedding, it's clear cinephiles aren't really on their radar).

So we are here to right those wrongs and shout from the rooftops about the films that don't get a fanfare but are still worth hunting down through the search function. Here is our new list of the hidden gems of Netflix. Happy viewing!

Presque Rien
2000
Sébastien Lifshitz
A quiet 18-year-old guy called Mathieu meets Cédric, an attractive, relaxed sort-of boy of a similar age and they soon fall quickly into a passionate sexual relationship. An interesting and well observed drama about the feelings of first passion, the leading actors are deliver convincing performances thanks to Sébastien Lifshitz sensitive and non-fussy directing. 

Barnaby Walter.

 

I Am Slave
2006
Gabriel Range

In a speech during one of 12 Years A Slave’s BAFTA wins, Steve McQueen mentioned that thousands of people are entrapped by slavery right now. This brave and extremely moving film from Gabriel Range shows how this can be possible in twenty-first century London. It is based on the true story of Mande Nazar, the author and journalist who spent years in slavery. Wunmi Mosaku, from ITV’s Vera and BBC Three’s In the Flesh, will break your heart as the film’s lead.

B.W. 

 

 Dirty Pretty Things

Dirty Pretty Things
2002
Stephen Frears

A gritty crime-drama that delves into the challenging lives of immigrants living in London. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou, the film looks at Okwe, a Nigerian immigrant, who works at a hotel whilst putting his medicine degree to practice in an illegitimate manner during the day. As well as this, Okwe must avoid Immigration officers at all costs. Dirty Pretty Things is a courageous investigation into the lives of Okwe and Senay and manages to unmask the desperation that characterises their existence.
Lewis Taplin. 
 

In the Bedroom

In the Bedroom
2001
Todd Field

Director Todd Field’s at times suffocating drama may be too much for some, but it’s devastating mid-film twist is brutally effective, as are the themes of grief and despair that comes with it. Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek’s performances are very affecting.

BW.
 

 The Children's Hour

The Children's Hour
1961
William Wyler

This film about two school teachers who are accused of being lesbians by a vindictive and deceptive pupil is a slightly uneasy piece of work to view in 2014. The idea of being “accused” of being gay is a subject problematic in itself, though it is remarkable how sympathetically the film is considering this is 1961. Revived onstage in London a couple of years ago with Keira Knightley and Elizabeth Moss in the central roles, the film stars Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine as the two teachers. Hepburn is especially impressive.

 BW.

 

Insomnia

Insomnia
2002
Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady

Though English-language remakes are often a pointless exercise in a depressingly American brand of laziness and xenophobia, British director Christopher Nolan manages to do something interesting. Here we have that rare thing: a quality US remake that does its own thing remarkably well. It’s probably Nolan’s best film (maybe because he didn’t come up with the story) and it avoids the pretentious oh-aren’t-we-so-clever nonsense of The Dark Knight series. Al Pacino is mesmerising as a cop driven to distraction by guilt and the 24 hour daylight of Alaska where he is tasked to solve the murder of a teenager. Wally Pfister’s cinematography is hypnotically beautiful. Sadly, Netflix doesn’t seem to have an HD print of the film available to stream (and Disney haven’t released a UK Blu-ray) and SD is a really bad way to view this visually gorgeous film. If you really want to see the film properly, import Warner Bros’s flawless US Blu-ray treatment. It’s worth it.

BW. 

 

Jesus Camp

Jesus Camp
2006
Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady

An insightful and at times disturbing documentary which looks at the behaviour of Pentecostal Evangelists in the US. Look out for the bit where children on mass are made to cry and confess their sins for reading Harry Potter novels. He is a dangerous ‘warlock’ and we are all evil for liking Rowling’s wonderful stories of love, friendship, loyalty and bravery. Apparently.

 BW.

 

What Richard Did

What Richard Did
2012
Lenny Abrahamson

Jack Reynor is currently helping Wahlberg and co fight big robots in Transformers: Age of Extinction, but before that he was in this powerful Irish drama about a teenage boy in a terrible situation. His character, Richard, is not a particularly likable fellow. He’s arrogant, cocky, and casually homophobic. But is he evil? The result of a drunken fight leads him into a moral hinterland where guilt and secrecy becomes part of his life. A very effective work.

BW.

 

Whip It
2002
Oliver Parker

An odd choice for the directorial debut of rom-com superstar and one-time E.T. be-friender Drew Barrymore, Whip It stars Ellen Page as a spiritually lost Texan teenager who stumbles across an underground roller-derby tournament and quickly becomes its biggest star. Packed with all the wit and wonder of its incredible lead, as well as an almost endless list of other great female talent (Ali Shawkat and Kristen Wiig to name literally just a few), Whip It is punchy, exciting and fires off a well-honed feminist message without ever being preachy.

 Ben Robins. 

 


The Importance of Being Earnest
2002
Oliver Parker

Oscar Wilde’s witty comedy is brought entertainingly to life by Oliver Parker, who directed the rather poor St Trinian’s movies and the 2009 Dorian Gray adaptation. Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O’Connor, Reese Witherspoon and Judi Dench all star in this tale of two bachelors (Firth and Everett) who get caught up with their own deceptions whilst trying to win the hearts of the women they love. It’s all very light and fluffy, but Parker’s adaptation explores some of the more serious aspects of Wilde’s story, and stages the big reveal at the end splendidly.

BW.

 

Free Fall
2012
Stephen Lacant

This drama focuses on a policeman who unexpectedly falls for his male colleague whom he has a love affair with which eventually begins to disrupt his life with his girlfriend and newborn child. It is a raw, German-language film which intricately explores the delicacy of sexuality in an established heterosexualised society with disturbingly heartbreaking effects. What is particularly poignant about the film is that it doesn’t place purely homosexual themes at the forefront with an abundance of cliché like many other works, but lets individuality and the battle of expectations take pride of place.

LT.

 

Short Term 12
2013
Destin Daniel Cretton

The film focuses on a residential treatment facility, where Grace (Brie Larson) works along with her long-time partner Mason (John Gallagher Jr.). The drama is simultaneously distressing and warming, weaving in and out the lives of the young people at the facility as well as the personal sufferings of Grace. Cretton manages to capture the troubling lives behind the facades with utter sincerity. As the film unravels, it scrutinises the evil within humankind and how that can sometimes be overcome in the most simplest of ways.

 LT. 

 

 

Jeff, Who Lives At Home
2011
Jay and Mark Duplass
 
The Duplass brothers take another stab at cracking the perfect “indie” formula in this low-concept and surprisingly spiritual little dramedy. Jason Segel and Ed Helms are two brothers who reunite over the course of a single day to discover their destinies and track Helms’ possibly adulterous wife. It’s short, sweet and has a lot to say about “the universe”, as well as showcasing just how great an actor Segel can be. 
 

Hard Candy
2005
David Slade

 About as smartly-written and bare-bones as they come, Hard Candy finds a young Ellen Page falling helplessly under the charms of potential pedophile photographer Patrick Wilson; or is that exactly what she had planned all along? Filled with a healthy amount of twisted intrigue, this is an ultra-dark thriller powered solely by its artfully distinctive cinematography and two phenomenal leads.
BR.
 
Primer

Primer
2004
Shane Carruth
 
Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Primer took Sundance by storm upon its initial release and has since continued to melt brains across the globe. Introducing the world to possibly cinema’s next great pioneer, one Shane Carruth, the film finds a group of friends accidentally creating a time-machine before falling victim to its very existence. What ensues is 77 minutes of sheer wonder and confusion that’s plagued even the brightest of minds.
BR. 
 

Upstream Colour
2013
Shane Carruth

 
Following on from his complex hit Primer, Shane Carruth’s sophomore effort is bigger, bolder and just as entangling. To attempt to describe any element of the plot would take a lot more than a few sentences, so just watch, absorb and enjoy. “Art films” doesn’t even begin to explain what Carruth has planned for cinema.
BR. 
 

Dreams of a Life
2011
Carol Morley
 
Filmmaker Carol Morley documents in fascinating detail the strange and upsetting story of Joyce Vincent, a 38-year-old woman whose body was found in her flat three years after she died whilst wrapping up Christmas presents. A heartbreaking look at loneliness, guilt and regret, this is a film that will stay with you.

BW.  



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